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Armagh student Hannah Hillis celebrates silver medal at WorldSkills UK competition

Hannah Hillis (left) and Emily Armstrong

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Hillis recently won a silver medal at last November’s WorldSkills UK competition in Manchester.

Just one and a half points away from taking the gold medal, this young Health and Social Care student is one to watch.

Here, Hannah, who is originally from Poyntzpass and attends Armagh SRC, speaks of what it’s like to compete in the UK competition series in her chosen area of Health and Social Care and what lead her to pursue a career in this sector.

Going to a national competition is nerve-wracking for any young person.

It takes commitment, preparation, and nerves of steel to compete against students from across the UK. To make it to the WorldSkills UK competition, finalists must compete at regional level to be eligible to compete at national level.

Hannah is one of eight UK finalists, who travelled to Birmingham last November alongside her classmate and fellow finalist, Emily Armstrong.

Both students’ study the Level 3 Advanced Technical Award in Health and Social Care at Southern Regional College, a course which is equivalent to three A-levels and provides an in-dept understanding of theory plus workplace learning.

Speaking on the competition atmosphere, Hannah said: “It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’ve even got that far, but then to also see the professional set up and knowing that you are one of the competitors is crazy.”

At the UK competition, Hannah faced a series of six unknown tasks spread across two days testing time management and determination, alongside practical skills including blood pressure and full body health checks.

Prior to going to the UK national competition Hannah undertook additional training on common scenarios which occur in practice. While preparation is key you can’t go into the competition as if you are reading from a script.

As Hannah says: “If you’ve practiced something and how you might phrase something, you could sound like a script. You need to sound realistic and act like it’s a normal free flowing conversation despite facing actors!

“If I go into a resident’s room, I wouldn’t pull something from the back of my head as if I was reading a script; I would sound like a robot! I talk with my residents and gauge how they are feeling that day and what they want to talk about.”

Hannah works in her local Brooklands Nursing Home as a care assistant.

She started working at the nursing home prior to starting her Level 3 Health & Social Care course at SRC’s Armagh campus.

This was to ensure health and social care was the right career path for her. Hannah took subjects from science, nutrition, and business as well as the traditional subjects in Maths and English when completing her GCSEs. So how did she veer into health and social care?

“Honestly, I wasn’t 100% sure what I wanted to do after GCSEs. I loved subjects like nutrition, but then I got an interest in healthcare and I start working in the nursing home in 2022. I really love it! Just seeing the impact I can make in someone’s life is really fulfilling and rewarding. I knew instantly that health and social care was the career I wanted to pursue.”

Prior to entering the WorldSkills UK competition, Hannah felt she was shy and even a bit nervous about her future, but that’s all changed now.

“Being at SRC and entering the WorldSkills competition has helped me with my confidence. It’s helped me to grow in confidence and independence. With the competition I had to travel to England with Emily and other SRC competitors. I’ve never travelled away from my parents, so it’s really helped me become more independent, which will help with the next few years if I get into university.”

Hannah’s plans for her future include a career in nursing.

Having applied for university courses in nursing and midwifery, Hannah hopes to gain a place in either Queens University or Ulster University.

On her career preferences, Hannah says: “I would love to do both adult nursing and midwifery, but I would 100% do adult nursing first if given the choice. Fingers crossed, that’s the dream.”

Hannah doesn’t know what she done over and above her fellow finalists to take the silver medal.

“I honestly don’t know. I didn’t know what to expect during the competition. It was one of those things that I came out of every day thinking about. It was hard to tell who placed because everyone was so bubbly and seemed to have so much knowledge about the background and work experience in their own work settings at home.”

Hannah’s outstanding performance at WorldSkills UK earned her a spot in Team UK’s development programme, which could lead to competing in the European and World Skills series.

The squad training for Health & Social Care is in full swing, with the first session already completed at SRC’s Model campus in Newry. Next up is a weekend training session at the end of February in Warwick alongside fellow Team UK squad members.

Emily, Anna and Hannah

Speaking on Hannah’s success, Anna Martin, Lecturer at Southern Regional College commented: “Hannah’s outstanding performance in the National Finals has earned her a place in the Squad UK, WorldSkills UK International Competition Development Programme. She will now compete with other talented squad members for the opportunity to represent the UK at WorldSkills Lyon, September 2024, the world’s biggest vocational skills competition.

“The International Competition Development Programme aims to enhance the knowledge, skills and expertise of students and apprentices, and to select those who can achieve a medal winning performance for the UK at the next WorldSkills Competition, in Lyon 2024 and Shanghai in 2026. I am very proud of Hannah, and I am confident that she will do brilliantly.”

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